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CHR cautions against making light of torture, urges creation of anti-torture body

This file photo from 2014 shows a “wheel of torture” that police allegedly used on detainees in Biñan, Laguna

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Thursday, the World Day of Social Justice, reminded the Philippine government to avoid making statements that encourage and justify torture.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the Philippines is a signatory, bans torture as well as "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment.

"[The CHR] reminds government officials to be very circumspect in their public pronouncements as these might inspire transgression of people’s dignity and human rights. In addressing rogue behavior among the ranks of security forces, due process of the law should be followed all the time," spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

"Encouraging the use of torture among fellow duty-bearers does not exemplify the best standard of a public servant and should be condoned at all levels," she also said.

On February 10, Duterte remarked in front of local officials in Pasay that they should torture corrupt police officers. The president has a habit of discussing violence and murder as a sort of icebreaker, a style of speech that the Palace said his audience appreciates and should not be taken literally.

"To the local executives if you really love your country, do something about it. Hindi mo naman kailangan patayin eh. I-torture mo lang hanggang mamatay. (You do not need to kill them. Just torture them until they die)," the president is quoted as saying in a report by The STAR.

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Duterte in January 2019 also suggested the kidnapping and torture of Commission on Audit personnel, remarks that the Palace also said the president did not mean.

"Ah, p******** ‘yang COA na ‘yan. L****. Kasi ‘yung COA, every time may mali talaga. Ano ba itong COA na ito? Gusto mo mag-kidnap tayo ng taga-COA, ilagay natin, i-torture natin dito?" the president said.

(These sons of b****** in COA. That COA, every time there is always something wrong. What’s up with this COA? What if we kidnap someone from COA, we torture them here?)

Malacañang said that Duterte “was obviously joking.”

RELATED:Palace dismisses Duterte’s threat vs COA as another joke

"If the government is truly sincere with its international human rights treaty commitments, the commission urges the administration to refrain from making any statement that endorses the use of torture in dealing with corruption and criminality in the country," De Guia said in the statement.

'National Preventive Measure' needed

The Philippines is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol.

Under the Optional Protocol, the Philippines is required to set up a National Preventive Mechanism that would develop a comprehensive strategy against torture.

“Each State Party shall set up, designate or maintain at the domestic level one or several visiting bodies for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (hereinafter referred to as the national preventive mechanism),” reads Article 3 of the Optional Protocol.

However, the Philippines has not passed a law establishing an NPM since ratifying the Optional Protocol in 2012, which means non-compliance to its treaty obligation.

An Interim NPM, created in 2016 through the initiative of CHR, is currently fulfilling the required functions lacking a law that would enact the body.

The CHR also pointed out that since the passing of the Anti-Torture Act (Republic Act 9745) in 2009, only one conviction has been meted out in over a decade with many cases still under investigation.

“The prohibition of torture in the Philippines and in other parts of the globe is absolute and can never be justified in any circumstance. This prohibition is non-derogable, which means that a State is not allowed to temporarily limit the prohibition on torture under any circumstance whatsoever, whether there is a state of war, political instability, or any other public emergency,” De Guia said.

There were 134 counts of torture recorded by human rights monitor Karapatan between July 2016 and June 2019.

“Furthermore, we push for the immediate passing of the bill that establishes the NPM. This is a requisite in developing a comprehensive strategy that integrates a legal framework, effective implementation, and monitoring mechanisms that end and prohibit torture.”

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